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Cybersecurity Sector Expanding, Needs People

TECHNOLOGY: Impact of Cluster Equivalent to 24 Comic-Cons

Take Comic-Con and multiply it by 24, and you have an idea of how big an impact the cybersecurity sector has on San Diego.

Internet security is worth $4 billion annually in the county, up from $1.5 billion in 2013.

Lisa Easterly
President and CEO
Cyber Center of Excellence

Some 13,383 jobs are tied to the cluster, an increase of 8% over the last two years, according to the authors of an in-depth look at the business specialty.

There are 1,016 establishments tied to the cybersecurity cluster in San Diego, up 17% over the last two years and roughly 10x from the number of establishments a decade ago. These enterprises range in size from small businesses to the U.S. Navy, which employs 3,432 people at its IT command, NAVWAR (Naval Information Warfare Systems Command).

Those are a few highlights of “Cybersecurity Is Everyone’s Business: San Diego’s Cyber Cluster,” released Tuesday (Oct. 3) by the Cyber Center of Excellence (CCOE) and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation.

To mark the release, CCOE brought together a panel of experts at Qualcomm’s Building Q to discuss the cybersecurity landscape.

‘Leading the Charge’

“San Diego is leading the charge with more than 1,000 cyber firms, top ranked education and research institutes and NAVWAR. This collaborative ‘Ecosystem in Action ’ – as highlighted by the White House – is developing new technologies, solutions and diverse cyber talent to create a more secure digital community for all,” said Lisa Easterly, president and CEO of CCOE, the organization that commissioned the report. The release marked CCOE’s 10th anniversary.

Eduardo Velasquez
Senior Director of Research and Economic Development
San Diego Regional EDC

“Firms in every industry face cybersecurity risks. This is driving up the demand for cybersecurity talent and solutions. To keep pace and remain competitive, San Diego must leverage its unique assets, such as the military, as well as its incredibly diverse pool of talent,” said Eduardo Velasquez, senior director of research and economic development with the San Diego Regional EDC.

Cybersecurity has an even greater impact when people widen their focus and count ripple effects of the sector, including supply chain and consumer spending. In addition to a core of approximately 13,400 local jobs, economists calculate there are 5,400 indirect jobs and 7,200 induced jobs, for a total economic impact of 26,000 jobs.

Everyone’s Business

Issues stemming from cybersecurity are no longer neatly contained in the company IT department. Everyday household objects, such as automobiles or refrigerators, are internet connected. So are pieces of critical infrastructure, such as the power grid or water treatment plants, and without effective security, they are vulnerable to hackers. Medical information is just one valuable commodity on the black market.

Some 59% of private sector cybersecurity jobs are in industries outside technology — in sectors such as manufacturing, architecture and engineering. It is common for businesses in any vertical market to have cybersecurity staff to keep their systems and data secure.

Last year, IBM estimated the cost of a cyberattack had increased. The global average cost of a cyberattack was $4.35 million; however, in the United States, the cost was $9.44 million.

Local cybersecurity firms remain deeply linked to the federal government, including the Department of Defense. A majority (65%) of San Diego cyber firms work directly or indirectly with the government. Approximately one quarter of local cybersecurity firms are in defense and aerospace.

A Big Demand for Talent

Demand for cyber talent far exceeds local supply. Three out of four cybersecurity firms in San Diego say they are having difficulty finding entry- to mid-level as well as experienced applicants.

San Diego County ranks ninth in cybersecurity employment concentration, with San Jose at the top of the heap, Seattle second and San Francisco third. Coming in fourth is the national capital region.

San Diego’s high cost of living is holding the cybersecurity sector back, report authors said, while peer cities have increased compensation. In San Diego, the adjusted median annual wage for cybersecurity workers is $83,000. The same worker would receive $117,000 in Seattle, $110,000 in San Jose and environs, and $95,000 in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, the area awarding the most degrees and certificates in cybersecurity is greater New York City, with 16,000 in 2021. San Diego, by contrast, awarded slightly less than 4,000.

During a panel discussion, Jerry Sheehan, vice president for IT and CIO for the IT division at San Diego State University, called for more paid internships for students, saying such work experience exposes students to workplace culture and real-world challenges. He also noted that medical doctors frequently take their first job in the town where they did their residency. San Diego could increase its cyber workforce by noting that phenomenon.

Report authors found that the region’s talent pool has grown by nearly 10% since 2018, five times faster than all other occupations combined. The cybersecurity talent base experienced significantly smaller job losses during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovered both more strongly and more quickly than other occupations.

The Hazards of Thinking Alike

During the panel discussion, Chase Franzen of Sharp HealthCare made the argument for more diversity in internet security. Members of the cybersecurity workforce need not and should not come from the same background.

Franzen said that autistic people, who might have a hard time in a corporate setting, may find a niche in cybersecurity. “Folks like that can be phenomenal in our world,” Franzen said.

Vidya Murthy
COO
Medcrypt

“Cybersecurity is an art, where you are building a security measure against an adversary,” said Vidya Murthy, COO of Medcrypt, who was not an event speaker but made her comments in the report.

“Having a team comprised of people from different backgrounds allows for different perspectives, which is important for finding potential vulnerabilities before your adversary does and coming up with a solution.” Medcrypt is a San Diego-based company focused on thwarting cyber threats in medical devices.

The CCOE/EDC report offered a good deal of technical information, such as the cybersecurity certifications most highly sought by employers. The top five are Security+, Security Clearance, Network+ Certified, Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA), and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

While a cybersecurity-related degree can show competency for a cybersecurity position, having a degree requirement limits the potential talent pool, report authors said.

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